The UK’s leading rural insurer NFU Mutual is warning owners of thatched properties to carry out essential safety checks to prevent the risk of a fire destroying their home.
The seasonal warning has been prompted by a spate of recent chimney fires, as the arrival of autumnal weather has seen many homeowners turn to the warmth of a real fire in the evening.
Although statistically a home with a thatched roof is no more likely to catch fire than a home with a conventional roof, if a thatched roof does ignite the fire can be very difficult to control and the results are often devastating, with some buildings being partially or totally destroyed.
NFU Mutual paid out £7.9m in claims during 2010 for fires relating to thatch properties: the majority of these cases were for thatched homes in the South East, South West and East of England.
If a thatched property is damaged by fire, it can take up to 18 months for the property to be re-built and even longer for a listed building, so any steps a homeowner can take to reduce the risk of a thatch fire could help to avoid the inconvenience and heartache of dealing with the aftermath of such an event.
Nicki Whittaker, rural affairs spokeswoman for NFU Mutual, said: “Living beneath a thatched roof doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the warmth of a real fire, but it is important homeowners exercise a degree of caution before lighting an open fire or wood burning stove.
“If you have not used your fire or wood-burner for a while you may want to consider speaking to a qualified Thatcher or fire safety officer, who can check your appliances are in good working order and provide further tips on preventative measures.”
TIPS FOR THATCH FIRE SAFETY
l Ensure your chimney stack is at least five feet above the thatch, allowing sparks to escape and die-out before they settle.
l Have your chimney checked to ensure that the brick or stone work is in good condition, especially where it passes through the thatch.
l Consider having your chimney lined. An insulated lining should be fitted where the stack passes through the thatch.
l When installing a stove, make sure you employ a professional with experience of thatched properties to do the job.
l Keep an eye on the flue temperature by fitting a flue thermometer.
To help homeowners, NFU Mutual has produced a number of online guides giving advice about buying and caring for a thatched property. Homeowners can visit www.nfumutual.co.uk to view the guides or for more thatch tips.